In Flesh Tones, the debut full-length from Calgary collective Azeda Booth, follows the heels of last year's Mysterious Body EP and finds the band members expanding their brand of glacial, atmospheric dream pop on a much grander scale. From its opening notes, its clear that they're shooting for a regal, ambitious vision, one that contemporaries Arcade Fire and Sigur Ros have perfected in aesthetic and actuality. For their part, Azeda Booth, led by core members Morgan Greenwood and Jordon Hossack, has the chops to pull it off as well. With an extraordinary blend of emotional fragility and lush, versatile instrumentation, In Flesh Tones rests comfortably on its own scale, rewarding its exploration.
Perhaps the most immediate aspect of the band’s sound is the vocals of Hossack. Sung in the same androgynous vein as Air, at first they compel, but it soon becomes clear that they're the most essential element of the band’s sound. They give credibility to the music -- specifically the melodies they support -- and help urge the listener along. After all, music is meant to move people, and pressing the right emotions (in this case, courage in insecurity) is the band's catalyst.
In turn, the aesthetic of the band is realized in real terms: Songs like “Kensington,” “In Red” and “Numberguts” are the proof. “Kensington” builds slowly around a delicate vocal melody until clattering percussion and ethereal keys join in, crescendoing into a stunning symphony of feedback and noise. “Numberguts” employs a similar turn; this climax spotlights a coalescence of live and electronic clamoring percussion. "In Red” sets a more urgent, insistent tone, built around guitar riffs and tribal drumming, alongside Hossack’s falsetto singing at a much more rapid pace.
Azeda Booth isn't yet capable of sustaining triumph through an entire album. It's built on hitting emotional peaks, and naturally the valleys don't have as much playability. Azeda Booth gets a little too comfortable resting in the static, but considering the band's achievements, it's a minor squabble.
In Flesh Tones is sensitive, unsure and guarded, yet it's comfortable and inviting despite this. Azeda Booth creates a world where the vulnerable is exposed. The musicians don't don’t mask it; they triumphantly summon you to experience it with them.